Press calls

Selling To The Media – where to start

About Rebecca:
Intern turned digital marketing and PR assistant living in and loving London. I'm new to the SEO world but keen to make my mark.

Selling in to the media continues to be a scary and daunting task that most PRs will shift on to someone else if they have the chance.

The thought of contacting journalists on your call sheet with only a 30 second window to get their attention and pitch a story to them is a challenge, especially when you don’t know them. The fear and sometimes experience of a less than polite journalist, leading to no story and the partial destruction of your soul, would leave the best of us scarred.

However if we take the time to consider why these experiences can be so negative, then we can quickly see a way to turn them around.

Journalists are people just like us with work pressure and deadlines that we need to understand and cater to. As much as journalists hold the power, deep down they know that we provide them with the stories they need, and that we are as much a part of the news process as they are.

There are a few things we need to consider before calling a journalist that will dramatically increase the chances of a pleasant and successful sell in:

  • Timings
  • Deadlines
  • Publications
  • Position
  • Exclusives
  • Ways In

Timings

For most newspapers in the morning between 9:30 and 10:30 gives them enough time to get in to the office before the editorial team go to morning conference, where they pitch stories for the day.  Like all of us when we have the time we are much happier to take a call and will be less distracted.

Deadlines

Just like us journalists work to deadlines, and theirs are especially tight. Afternoons for daily press are a manic when journalists are fighting time to get that story finished. Calling at this time will almost definitely result in you being rushed and unless you have something truly amazing; a failed sell in. PR Web really grasp the media perspectives in their post 10 media pitching tips for new entrepreneurs.

Publications

If you read a selection of the daily newspapers with a mixture of tabloids and broadsheets you will quickly start to notice the variation in style and themes that are covered in each,  what stories are trending as well as which reporters cover which type of stories.

Use this information to your advantage and pitch specifically to that publication, even if it means changing an element of your story. By doing this you will ensure that you are targeting the right readership, which is what all journalists are striving to achieve. Using lines like ‘I have something I think your readers will love’ is great, but it also has to be true. Sending a press release over email is ok but calling up and establishing contact enables you to really stress the important elements of your story, as Manminder Dhillon confirms in her post  ‘Why Even Bother Pitching to the Media?’.

Positions

When you call a news desk you are most likely going to speak to reporters who feed stories up to the editors and so on.  Look for previous work of that journalist and explain why this story would work for them, and how you read the last story they covered; it never hurts to pay a compliment to someone’s work.  At the end of the day a journalist aim is to get as many by lines as they can, so point out how your story will get them there.

Exclusives

A great way to ensure a sell in is by using exclusives, think of your story as a cucumber that you can cut up in to sections to get as much coverage from your A list publications.  Make your story three dimensional and select specific elements that will attract that publication:

  • Video clips – interviews/ footage
  • Photos
  • Interviews with key people – spokesperson
  • Audio clips
  • Quotes
  • Sight of Research/ Survey Data

It is important to make sure all your exclusives are available in a format that your target publication accepts, so do your research before hand. It is not only having an exclusive element that is vital but communicating it in the time you have. Make sure that if you have someone key to the story available that you mention it and make clear the offerings you are willing to make.

See Mashables post on leveraging social media and technology for pitches for more advice on selling exclusives. How to Take Your PR Pitches To The Next Level.

Ways In

It is often the case that a story that your client or company wants you to get coverage on is lacking in newsworthy content and is not a strong news story. In these cases be creative, consider stronger stories coming up that you could ride it in on the back of or slots that journalists notoriously find hard to fill, for instance letters pages and diary columns. It could be that it would work better as a picture story with a grabbing caption, turning your non story in to a great story.

The ideal outcome of any sell in is that initial ‘yes’ that gets you another 90 seconds of time to pitch the really important aspects of your story to a journalist, but overall it is getting that personal email rather than ‘newsdesk@ . . .’ that is a polite way of accepting your press release in to a lost cyber world.

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